Sri Lanka's Caribbean tour diary

Sa'adi Thawfeeq

Wednesday 11, June 1997

JUNE 2 - Sri Lanka cricketers arrive after a 20-hour flight from Colombo at Piarco International Airport in Trinidad and are met by top officials of the West Indies Cricket Board - executive secretary Andrew Sealy, and Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board chief executive officer Alloy Lequay, general secretary Suren Dhaniram and liaison officer Gregory Asgarali. Dr. Ramesh Mathura, one of the medical officers attached to the TTCB is summoned to the Trinidad Hilton, to attend to an ailing Sri Lanka vice-captain Aravinda de Silva, who is the worst affected by the 'flu' contracted from India. Manager Duleep Mendis tells the 'Trinidad Guardian' on arrival: ''We are going to concentrate a bit harder in the Test matches and I think we have the calibre of players who will make us into a good Test playing team.''

JUNE 3 - Only half the team's players turn up for their first workout in the West Indies at Queen's Park Oval, the rest being confined to the hotel with the virus. Sri Lanka's Australian-born coach and former Test cricketer Bruce Yardley renews old friendship with another cricketer of his era, West Indian Rangi Nanan. Roger Harper, the former West Indies Test all-rounder who captained the West Indies 'A' team to Sri Lanka last year, is appointed coach of the West Indies 'A' team to South Africa in November this year. Joel Garner, who came to Sri Lanka as manager of the team is retained for the same position. Harper opted out of this year's Red Stripe Cup, the West Indies domestic competition, to coach the USA in the ICC trophy tournament.

JUNE 4 - A colourful crowd is present at Guaracara Park, situated in Port-of-Spain's oil refinery, to see the World Cup champions in action. Apart from cricket, the day is made lively by the presence of Gerald Thomas, Trinidad cricket's national flag bearer, who was given a national award by the Trinidad government during the Independence celebrations. There is also Coco Jumbo, the peanut vendor, who is renowned for his Jumbo sized peanuts. During the drive back from Poite-a-Pierre to Port-of-Spain after the match, former West Indies fast bowler turned cricket commentator, Colin Croft, who is also a passenger, laments the treatment he is subjected to in his own country. He is angry that he is always questioned at the gates by those on duty and asked for his media accredition even though he has identified himself as Colin Croft, former West Indies Test cricketer. ''I can't take this **** no more,'' says Croft, a rebel cricketer, who went to South Africa and was subsequently banned from playing for West Indies, eventually ended up as a cricket commentator for TV.

JUNE 5 - The sports pages of the local newspapers go to town on Sri Lanka's loss by three wickets to Trinidad and Tobago in their opening match of the tour. ''Ragoo blasts world champs'', said 'The Independent', ''TT whip world champs Sri Lanka by 3 wickets ...'' said 'Newsday', while 'The Trinidad Guardian' went one better with the following headline: ''TT beat world's best''. Whether Sri Lanka were at full strength or not, didn't matter. What mattered was that the Caribbean one-day champions, Trinidad and Tobago had beaten the World Cup champions.

JUNE 6 - West Indies Cricket Board's executive secretary Andrew Sealy announces that former Test batsman Gus Logie, who came to Sri Lanka as coach of the West Indies 'A' team last year, has been appointed coach of the West Indies under 19 team which is scheduled to host a Sri Lanka under 19 team in the Caribbean starting end of August, this year. The tour he said had to be confirmed at July's International Cricket Council (ICC) meeting at Lord's. Former Test captain Clive Lloyd entrusted with the task of bringing back West Indies cricket to the good old days when they were just unbeatable, says of his team-in-transition: ''At the moment we are doing fairly well. We just won the Test and one-day series against India, and we would like to end up on a winning note with Sri Lanka. I like today to be the point from which the Windies' winning starts''. West Indies confirm Lloyd's belief by beating Sri Lanka by 35 runs in the one-off one-day international played at Queens Park Oval. Waving flags in the air, and to the beat of several top musical Caribbean style hits by resident disc jockeys, the spectators in their thousands, come out in support of a West Indies victory, cheering and dancing and taking everything the game had to offer.

JUNE 7 - With newspaper headlines screaming: ''Windies wallop world one-day champs'' ('Daily Express), and ''Windies outplay world champions'' ('Trinidad Guardian'), the Sri Lanka team arrive in Antigua after a two-hour flight from Port-of-Spain, to play Leeward Islands in a 3-day game and West Indies in the first test at St. John's Recreation grounds. Antigua is the home of former West Indies 'great' Viv Richards. The 'Master Blaster' is a sort of a legend here. The telephone directory of Antigua features the great man on the cover, and there is also a Vivian Richards street too in St. John's. Antigua is a little bit like paradise. The island with a population of 78,000 has 365 beaches - one for every day of the year.

JUNE 8 - Sri Lanka take first strike in their game against Leeward Islands on a ground where two world records had been set by West Indians. It was at St. John's that Richards hit the fastest century in Test cricket off 56 balls in 1985-86 and Brian Lara eclipsed Sir Garry Sobers' world record Test score of 365 with 375 in 1993-94. Both instances were against England. Sri Lanka find such noble deeds no source of encouragement as they total a disappointing 192 for 6 dec. Newspapers are hard to come by in Antigua. There are only two newspapers - one that is printed daily during the week only, and the other once every Friday. There are no papers on Sunday which is regarded as holy with people from a wide cross-section attending churches Anglican, Baptist, Jehovah's Witness, Methodist, Moravian, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic and Seventh Day Adventist.

Source: The Daily News

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Date-stamped : 25 Feb1998 - 15:30